January hits the high notes in a packed operatic schedule
There are a wealth of operas to choose from in Ireland this year, with Britten proving particularly popular
The first Irish opera productions of 2013 are coming in January, and both are in direct competition with each other. Students from the Royal Irish Academy of Music will perform Britten’s Albert Herring and students from the DIT Conservatory of Music and Drama will perform Britten’s The Turn of the Screw. Remarkably, the two institutions managed to choose to perform their operas on the same dates, January 15th, 17th, and 19th.
Britten features in the schedules of the RTÉ National Symphony Orchestra and the Ulster Orchestra, but the most generous orchestral celebration of his centenary comes from the Irish Chamber Orchestra. Its March programme (on January 21st in Limerick and 23rd in Dublin) is directed from the viola by Isabelle van Keulen, and includes his Lachrymae, Simple Symphony, and Variations on a theme of Frank Bridge.
March looks like the busiest month for Britten celebrations, with performances of the Hymn to St Cecilia being toured by the BBC Singers under Fergus Sheil to Drogheda, Galway and Dublin (March 21st to 23rd). Then, students from the RIAM return to his work for three performances of the dramatic cantata Phaedra at The Lir in Dublin, from March 25th to 27th.
The West Cork Chamber Music Festival (June 28th to July 6th) won’t be short of Britten either, with performances of the three string quartets, the Third Suite for solo cello (by the hugely popular Natalie Clein), and the Rimbaud settings of Les illuminations from soprano Claire Booth with the ICO.
It’s most unusual to have a half dozen performances of two operas in Ireland in January, and the pattern of opera in 2013 looks like being as unusual as it has been over the past few years. NI Opera dips its foot into Wagner in February, with a new Oliver Mears production of Der fliegende Holländer at Belfast’s Grand Opera House (February 15th and 17th), featuring two Belfast singers in the lead roles, Bruno Caproni as the Dutchman, and Giselle Allen as Senta.
The company tours William Walton’s “extravaganza in one act” The Bear, again directed by Mears, from March 21st to 30th, and presents the Irish première of Gerald Barry’s The Importance of Being Earnest, directed by Anthony McDonald, in Derry, Belfast, Cork and Dublin in October and November, the Cork and Dublin performances benefiting from one of this year’s Arts Council production awards.
George Isaakian’s Moscow State Theatre production of Bizet’s Carmen comes to the Bord Gáis Energy Theatre from March 13th to 17th, with soprano Celine Byrne as Micaëla.
The theatre’s advertising calls this a “traditional production . . . with traditional sets and costumes”, although it also features elements that are anything but traditional. “The set designs will incorporate some of Picasso’s paintings, dedicated to Spain and the bullfight, and for the first time Carmen will be visualised through Picasso’s masterpieces.” This isn’t the first time that a show has made conflicting claims in an attempt to broaden its appeal.
Soprano Claudia Boyle returns to Lyric Opera, as Susanna in Mozart’s Le Nozze di Figaro in February (at the NCH on February 16th and 17th), and as Violetta in Verdi’s La traviata in June, which is at the Gaiety Theatre on June 5th, 7th and 8th. Mozart’s Figaro is also scheduled for the Lismore Music Festival, which this year will run for over a week, from Friday, May 25th to Sunday, June 2nd.